il giardino called out for bad behavior

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

il giardino called out for bad behavior:

planning board will consider sanctions in september

The Planning Board is serious: If you violate the terms of your conditional use permit to operate a business in Miami Beach, be prepared to suffer the consequences. The owner of Il Giardino on Ocean Drive is learning that first hand. In September he could become the poster child for bad behavior.
 
After hearing complaints about the noise level at the restaurant, the Planning Board called the owner, Imam Duz, in for a progress report. When Duz’s attorney, Amanda Quirke, explained some violations were dismissed, some fines paid, and others are on appeal, Board member Jeff Feldman said, “We have six violations in the last two months, of which they claim they are not guilty in any way for any of them which I just find truly very hard to believe. Very hard to believe. I’ve watched the way you operate and it’s less than stellar, to say the least. … I have a sense that we’re going to be seeing a lot of them over the next couple of months.”
 
Member Daniel Veitia, pulled up the total list of violations for the restaurant, not just the violations that pertain to the conditional use permit (CUP) approved by the Planning Board. He told his colleagues, “The only violations being communicated to you is related to the CUP. You’re looking at consistently every week getting a violation for something. Not just specific to the CUP but overall operation of the business. Clearly something is wrong.”
 
“There’s a pattern of non-compliance with the City law,” he said. “So either they’re not aware of the City laws that they need to comply with or they’re ignoring the City laws that they need to comply with. Either way it’s not common for me to have to bring a business in front of us to explain to them why it is that they shouldn’t be receiving violations on a consistent basis. The burden’s not on us. The burden is on the operator.”
 
Feldman explained to Veitia who joined the Board this year that the Board provided clear direction last December when it approved Duz’s application to become the new owner of the restaurant and assume its’ CUP. “We explained to them that our City is struggling greatly with Ocean Drive. Ocean Drive, which many of us or most of us would believe is really sort of the gem of the brand of Miami Beach, is really struggling.” Feldman, a member of the Mayor’s Ocean Drive Task Force, added, “The city has spent a lot of time and energy and resources and effort to really try to make some strides and improvements on Ocean Drive.” As part of the 10-Point Plan approved for Ocean Drive, he mentioned the anti-hawking ordinance which is now the basis of a legal action. “While the hawking item is hung up in court, we asked specifically, specifically, would you please, while we can’t enforce it, please honor that… the spirit of that … And it was promised and sworn and yes and yes, of course, of course, of course. We’ll be good neighbors. We’ll be great neighbors. We’re going to follow the spirit and the letter of the law.” Then he asked Quirke, “Do you think that your client has been a good neighbor?”
 
“I’ll answer my own question because you didn’t,” he continued. “No, you haven’t been good neighbors. No, you haven’t been honoring the spirit of what we’re trying in the City to try to do to turn things around a little bit.” He listed his own observations on many nights and said, “In fact, you’ve been a big part of the problem. It looks like yesterday they paid a bunch of things and they went to a training yesterday and, you know, it’s the bare minimum. It’s ‘Whatta we gotta do to get ourselves out of this? Let’s appeal everything that happens, let’s take no responsibility. We’ll fire two people’” in reference to a comment by the attorney who said two people had been fired recently for violations. “I don’t know why they got fired, nor do I care,” Feldman said. “But, hate to tell you, but you’re one of the four organizations on Ocean Drive that’s within our authority and I have zero issue making an example out of you … Zero issue. I could care less if you have a conditional use permit. I could care less if you have a sidewalk permit. It doesn’t matter to me. What I care about is that you respect our community. You respect the neighbors who live on the street, our tourists, our visitors and I’m talking to you [Quirke] but I’m actually talking to the people behind you. … If you’re the owner [to Duz] I look at you and I focus all of my energy and attention at you because your organization is as strong as its weakest link and if you’re the weakest link and you’re the owner then you’ve got a real problem.”
 
Duz said he had been out of the country for six weeks and told Feldman, “We are on top of it to correct it to comply with whatever the requirements are. I’m really sorry to be here because of the reasons we are here today. It’s wasting your time as well but we are on top of it to correct it.”
 
Veitia told Duz, “All I can tell you is 24 violations since change of ownership. I counted them. 24. 24 since January. 24 in 2107. There’s nothing you can tell me now that accounts for 24 times the City has had to actually issue you a violation … Some of these are basic sanitation violations like you’re generating trash on a daily basis and you can’t even manage the trash. It’s operating a business. These are the requirements.”
 
Veitia suggested a hearing to consider modification or revocation of the CUP.
 
Local activist, Michael DeFilippi, urged the Board to “take a serious consideration about making an example out of these guys.” He suggested they look online at the restaurant’s ratings. “They have the worst Yelp rating out of the entire city of Miami Beach.” He said the comments are the same about “scams everywhere. People are getting ripped off. This is hurting our brand. Our thing is tourism here and hospitality and this stuff is killing our brand. Someone comes to Ocean Drive, eats there, they get ripped off and their bill comes out to $300 for two people. They’re not coming back here. They’re telling their friends and their family that they were ripped off in Miami Beach so I have no sympathy for these guys … I think you really need to consider some type of harsh action because it’s unacceptable."
 
Board Chair, Brian Elias, said, “As the chair, it doesn’t bring us joy to have companies like this come before us but as both of my colleagues have stated, Ocean Drive has been a mess to the point that I don’t even enjoy going there and I’m born and raised here and I used to spend, you know, half my life on Ocean Drive. And it’s instances like this that are killing it and all you hear is negative feedback from experiences there.”  To Quirke he said, “I understand you’re doing your job and you’ve been very articulate but as an attorney myself sometimes the facts, we can’t control the facts. And in this case you can’t control the facts and they are what they are and, obviously, this operator has been pretty derelict in the way they’ve been operating and that’s pretty clear and that doesn’t bring me joy to say that but it is what it is.”
 
When October was suggested for the modification/revocation hearing due to a heavy agenda in September, Feldman objected. “I would say, to the contrary, I’d rather have it in September because to me this requires immediate attention. This is not something we’re just going to look at over the next 8 weeks and say, ‘You know what? These people, they’ve seen the Lord and they’re going to just make a change.’”
 
His colleagues agreed and the hearing is scheduled for September. At that point, the Board can choose to keep Il Giardino’s permit the same, modify it, or revoke it.